By Bart Biesemans
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Wiping down supermarket trolleys with disinfectant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may soon be a thing of the past, at least in Belgium, where engineers have come up with a machine that bombards shopping carts with ultraviolet light to sanitise them.
The invention is being tried out in three stores, where shoppers take a trolley, wheel it into a metal box and close a door. Ten seconds later the door pops open and, with their own hands freshly sanitised, they head off to do their shopping.
"We wanted to make it even simpler than a microwave," said Jean Demarteau, a member of a social enterprise cooperative in the town of Namur called OpenFlow whose volunteers design objects to help tackle the novel coronavirus.
"We have the equivalent of more than 2,000 suns in terms of UVC power received by the trolley. So the viruses have no chance of getting out and, once the cycle is over, the door opens automatically and the trolley is ready to use."
Irradiation with UVC, a short-wave ultraviolet light, works as a disinfectant by killing or inactivating microorganisms.
The Belgian cart zapper costs 7,000 euros for the most basic model, but the designers say it will pay for itself after three months because supermarkets won't have to employ people to wipe trolleys down between customers.
(Writing by John Chalmers, editing by Ed Osmond)